There are certain things in life that one doesn’t expect to find – or even consider finding – but which could bring a certain degree of whimsy, fun and even entertainment if they came to pass: leprechauns pitching a tent under a pandanus, for example; Pauline Hanson joining the ALP; bunyips being established as a legitimate species of Australian fauna. To that list I’m going to add a bluegrass cover of the INXS song ‘Devil Inside’ – and, for good measure, the same kind of interpretation of Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical’, which I may never think of the same way again … as both of these songs appear on Home Brew: 13 Aussie Classics, the latest release from The Pigs, who will be familiar to country music festival goers across the land.
On this album The Pigs have given some hard-workin’ Australian songs a bluegrass overhaul. There’s an almost sentimental treatment of Powderfinger’s ‘My Happiness’, and Mondo Rock’s ‘Come Said the Boy’ hits just as hard as it ever did; there’s also an appropriately irreverent take on Skyhooks’ ‘You Just Like Me Cos I’m Good in Bed’ (featuring Fanny Lumsden and Red Symons). There are songs from The Cruel Sea, The Divinyls and Cold Chisel, John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ and the dance hit ‘Addicted to Bass’ which is, in bluegrass form, just as infectious as the original.
You may have noticed that not one country music artist has been mentioned – and that’s because there aren’t any. The Pigs are possibly the only Australian country artists in recent memory to produce a cover album of entirely non-country songs. The serious part of this project is in establishing whether or not bluegrass as a genre can be adapted to all sorts of songs – or, rather, whether the songs can be adapted to it. Some work very well; some not so well. But that’s actually down to the songs rather than the interpreters. The idiosyncratic composing techniques of silverchair’s Daniel Johns – here represented by ‘Straight Lines’ – are exposed in this genre; the solid song structures that lurk beneath the occasionally shambolic stage appearances of You Am I’s Tim Rogers are clear on ‘Cathy’s Clown’. And the cover of ‘Ita’ only proves what, to me, has always been self-evident: that Cold Chisel were fundamentally a country band.
This is an eclectic collection of songs that will suit lovers of bluegrass as well as people who have a serious interest in how music works – not to mention people who just love a good party album. That’s quite a lot for one album to achieve.
Home Brew by The Pigs is out now.
The Pigs are taking their 13 Aussie classics on the road: